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St. John's vs Villanova: Q & A with VU Hoops

Getting reacquainted with the Villanova Wildcats.

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

With so much drama in the SJU, it's kind of hard facing Villanova U - that was a terrible rhyme, but it's true.

Tomorrow night in Madison Square Garden, the Red Storm face off against the Villanova Wildcats, coming off their first loss of the season - an overtime loss to the Seton Hall Pirates.

So they're going to come in hungry. And St. John's showed that life is harder without Rysheed Jordan in the fold - though he might be back, sooner than originally expected.

To get to know the opponent tomorrow, though, we reached out to Chris of the excellent Villanova site VUHoops for some intel...

Rumble: Is this team better than last year's squad? How far can Villanova go in the post season?

VUHoops: I really do believe they are a better team than last season. Daniel Ochefu's emergence as a legitimate low-post threat has really allowed Villanova to develop an attack where all five guys on the floor are a threat to score on any possession, and I think a lot of teams are having trouble gameplanning for a team with that many offensive weapons.

With how good they have looked, it'll be a disappointment if they don't at least get to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and I think the Final 4 is a realistic goal. Once you get to the second weekend though, it really becomes about matchups. I don't think anyone wants to take on Kentucky until the final game of the season.

Rumble: Villanova lost to Seton Hall. What happened to the shooting and is it a one-time thing?

VUHoops: I didn't think the 'shooting' was all that bad watching the game, but 31% is pretty ugly. It felt like JayVaughn Pinkston and Ryan Arcidiacono couldn't hit a thing, and upon review Josh Hart was pretty awful from the field as well. The free throw shooting was of greater concern because it was the second game in a row where EVERYONE was throwing up bricks. 15 missed foul shots is inexcusable.

I sincerely hope the FT issue isn't a recurring thing, but I'm pretty sure the shooting woes won't be. The Rock was going nuts and it was the first true road test of the year - kudos to their fans.

Rumble: Which players have emerged for the Wildcats this year, and how do they support the team's leaders, Ryan Arcidiacono and Jayvaughn Pinkston?

VUHoops: I actually think Arch has taken a step away from the spotlight - Pinkston and Darrun Hilliard are the senior leaders on the team and will be the go-to guys every night. Arch is more of a facilitaor now with a bad habit of forcing some bad shots. Daniel Ochefu has been the biggest surprise - his 19-point 24-rebound game against Seton Hall was sort of silly to watch. He's developed a nice high-low game with JayVaughn Pinkston and has developed 2-3 post moves that are really hard to stop. Him versus Chris Obekpa should be fun to watch.

Josh Hart has flashed an improved jumper to go with his slashing game, and Kris Jenkins is the team's best shooter from outside, we think. Freshman Phil Booth should probably be playing more given how good he's looked, but Jay Wright appears to be staying cautious with him, much to the fan's dismay.

Rumble: How is Villanova forcing so many turnovers?

VUHoops: Their 1-2-2 press isn't Louisville-quality, but it's pretty good at not allowing teams to easily get into their offensive sets. Hilliard has been very good at using his length at the top to force deflections that can spring some easy buckets too. But really, it's experience. Villanova is a veteran-group with only a couple of weak links in terms of on-ball defense (Arch & Jenkins). Their defensive rotation when somebody does get beat, along with their calculated risks at jumping passing lanes, are just well-drilled. Plus, they've got a monster in Ochefu to protect the rim.

It's good to have a defense like that to keep your team in the game when the offense is sputtering.

Rumble: What are your early impressions of Big East conference play?

VUHoops: Not much of a sophomore slump for the conference, huh? I think everybody was right be more on the bullish side given how good of a recruiting cycle most programs had plus the returning talent that was coming back. The one thing that was missing (and frankly still is) was the star power, but as long as teams like St. John's, Seton Hall and Georgetown stay relevant more people will learn about D'Angelo Harrison, Sterling Gibbs and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera.

I'm a huge fan of the conference the way it is right now. Last year I was in favor of adding St. Louis and somebody else, but now I'm more on the fence about adding any programs at this time. But, success makes you think that way. I think eventually 12 teams will be the right number to stay competitive with the Power 5.

I think huge credit needs to be laid at the feet of FOX too - their promotion and ancillary coverage of the league is way up this year. Things are pretty good in the Big East.